Ah, another damn year has gone by, 2014 has to be a hellalot better than 2013, it has to be!
If you missed New Years Worldwide, there are plenty of pictures here:
Now for a few links, did you see the latest on the booze front: Moderate alcohol consumption ‘boosts immune system’
The study researchers, led by Ilhem Messaoudi of the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, say their research may help lead to a better understanding of how the immune system works, and how to improve its ability to respond to vaccines and infections.
To reach their findings, the researchers trained 12 monkeys (rhesus macaques) to consume alcohol freely.
That has to be a beginning of a joke, at the very least.
Prior to this, the monkeys were vaccinated against smallpox. One group of the monkeys was then allowed access to either 4% alcohol, while the other group had access to sugar water. All monkeys also had access to normal water and food.
The monkeys were then monitored for a 14-month period and were vaccinated again 7 months into the experiment.
You had some monkeys that were “heavy drinkers” and some that were “moderate drinkers.” (I really can’t help but get images of those little monkeys dressed up like little people, and acting like the comical drunk in silent movies.)
Anyway, the study showed:
The monkeys classed as heavy drinkers showed diminished responses to the vaccine, compared with the monkeys that consumed sugar water. But the investigators were surprised to find that the monkeys deemed as moderate drinkers demonstrated an enhanced vaccine response.
Not sure if 12 monkeys is enough of a group of “individuals” to quantify the experiment…but my husband is a “heavy drinker” and he never gets sick. According to him, it is because of his alcohol and tobacco use that colds and disease do not take hold in his body…maybe he is on to something?
And since we are on the topic of experiments on animals: Animal-Rights Activists Bully Dying Italian Girl – The Daily Beast
When 25-year-old veterinary student Caterina Simonsen posted an update on a Facebook page supporting the use of animals in medical research before Christmas, she was trying to say how lucky she felt to be alive. The Padua native suffers from four rare genetic pulmonary diseases that require her to use breathing tubes and experimental medication to thin the mucus in her lungs in order to breathe. Her extreme illness makes her quickly immune to treatments, and, as a result, she has been a human guinea pig in a host of medical trials as doctors search for ways to help her live longer. At 18, her doctors told her she couldn’t be cured, but this year, she had survived another birthday and simply wanted to say thanks. “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine. You have gifted me a future.”
Simonsen’s comments, on the heels of a hotly contested national telethon in Italy soliciting money for medical research, triggered a flurry of hate comments from animal-rights extremists. “You could die tomorrow, I wouldn’t sacrifice my goldfish for you,” a poster named Giovanna wrote on the Facebook page “A Favore Della Sperimentazione Animale” (In Favor of Animal Experimentation). Another wrote, “If you had died as a child, no one would have given a damn.” In all, Simonsen received 30 death threats and 500 cruel insults, which are being investigated by local police.
You should see what some of the people wrote to this woman, hateful disgusting stuff. But it may be that some of those asshole may get their wish because Giovanna is in the hospital again with a lung infection that the doctors say is stress induced, read more at the link.
I hate to start the new year with a shit news filled post…so I will just post the rest of the depressing links in dump format:
Iowa voter fraud investigation possibly financed by misused funds | WQAD.com
According to a report by the Des Moines Register, in July of 2012 Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz launched an investigation with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to look into cases of alleged voter fraud.
Schultz reportedly used Help America Vote Act funds for the investigation, which may have violated how the HAVA funds are supposed to be used.
Can you hear the laughter from my house? All that money to catch 5 people(or some ridiculously low number like that…), three of which turned themselves in…only to find out that the money they used was “misused funds” from their “Help America Vote Act” funds.
In other crime news: Can hidden information in photographs be used to spot criminals? – latimes.com
A new study concludes that people are very good at recognizing the faces of familiar people reflected in the pupils of portrait subjects. (Courtesy of Rob Jenkins, Christie Kerr, PLOS One / December 26, 2013)
When the Mentally Ill Own Guns – An op/ed from the New York Times.
Reverse Nazi salute, all the rage in Europe, is now coming to America -This is scary…go to the link to see the pictures.
We need to talk about TED | Benjamin Bratton –An op/ed on those TED Talks…
In our culture, talking about the future is sometimes a polite way of saying things about the present that would otherwise be rude or risky.
But have you ever wondered why so little of the future promised in TED talks actually happens? So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?
Of course I have to bring you something medieval for new years…what about a medieval baby, in the making? Bet some GOP folks would believe it works this way…
Another medieval history link on Iceland: Beauty and brutality: Iceland’s literary landscapes
And one on Germany: Cheating and Cheaters in German Romance and Epic, 1180 – 1225
A picture of “What If?” here in America: The 124 states of America
What would the U.S. look like if all of the secession movements in U.S. history had succeeded? Well, Mansfield University geography professor Andrew Shears built a map to answer that question. (It covers secession movements through the end of 2011.) His 124 states of America is below. Click the map to enlarge it.
Map courtesy of Andrew Shears
It is missing some of the more recent movements out in Colorado…California…Idaho…Texas, etc.
Hey…for you Movie Buffs…Critics Poll: What Was the Worst Movie of 2013? — Vulture
A year in movies is often split between stunning works of art and jaw-droppingly awful films. For example: 12 Years a Slave hit theaters on the same day as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wait-this-actually-happened? team-up Escape Plan. So as Vulture celebrates the finest films of 2013 (you can see critic David Edelstein’s top ten here), so must we celebrate the worst. Welcome to the seventh edition of our annual worst-movies roundup, as voted on by critics, where soon-to-be-forgotten misfires earn a last turn in the spotlight.
This year, Vulture polled film critics on the year’s most torturous moviegoing experiences (some publications submitted collective ballots). Those responses, combined with a number of notable worst-of lists published elsewhere, added up to 42 lists, which were tallied to produce the final ranking of the ten worst films of 2013. It was a tight race, with critically maligned mainstream disasters (Gangster Squad, R.I.P.D.,The Hangover Part III) rubbing shoulders with polarizing auteurist efforts (Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder) just outside the bottom tier. Below, see the official ten worst of the worst for 2013, then peruse all of the individual critic ballots.
Fortunately I did not see any of the shit on that list. Did you?
Which brings me to another list for you this morning: The Year’s Very Worst Words Are So “Problematic”
Language is wonderful and language is alive, but language is also a form of psychological assault—especially when everybody suddenly starts using awful new terms and phrases just because everyone else is doing it, on Twitter. We are not so naive as to think we can “ban” this or that word, because “ban” is one of the words we would ban, if words could be banned. They cannot. Thanks to 2013, we’re stuck with this bunch of linguistic garbage.
bless your heart
Antiquated southernism for “fuck you,” often heard in open-plan offices where people are uncomfortable saying “fuck you.”
Yeah…that is one that is getting too much play from those northerners if you ask me…just leave it to the southern fuckwads, and just say it like it is.
Shorthand for “I have completed my bigoted statement.” See also: #sorrynotsorry.
Actually, one word I am fucking tired of is DUCK…funny that it does rhyme with FUCK?
Alright, that is it for the link “dump.” And…now we will end with a story about what kind of things gets “dropped” for the New Year: Pickles, Possums, Peeps: The Things We Drop to Ring in the New Year
Why do we celebrate the New Year … by dropping things?
It started with ships. Maritime vessels, back before they could turn to more precise forms of time measurement, relied on “time balls”: spheres that were dropped from masts and other shipboard poles at precise intervals to help insure that their chronometers were aligned with Greenwich Mean Time. In 1906, those time balls lent themselves to another kind of time: Times Square. New York City had just banned fireworks displays, and Adolph Ochs, the owner of The New York Times, wanted to give the throngs of people who would gather around his building another kind of show.
Ochs, as the Los Angeles Times reports, called on the paper’s chief electrician, Walter Palmer, to come up with another source of the spectacular. Palmer borrowed the maritime tradition and combined it with something that would work on land: electricity. And the Times Square Ball Drop was born.
Since then, the “dropping things” tradition has been modified by cities across the country, in ways both wondrous and weird. Plenty, still, drop their own balls—smaller versions of New York City’s. Many others, however, drop food (cheese, fruit, Peeps). Some drop animals (cows, fish, possums, goats). One (Seaside Heights, New Jersey) has dropped a person.
Below, re-categorized from Wikipedia’s amazingly extensive, state-by-state list, are some of the objects that people have chosen to ring in the New Year. They reflect regional pride, municipal quirk, economic diversity … and the rich weirdness that makes America what it is. Happy New Year, everyone.
I think I will now drop my fat ass into bed, since I am writing this post at 3:14 in the morning on January 1, 2014!
Happy New Year’s Day Y’all…
And, Bless Your Hearts….hee-hee.
Let’s celebrate some of the big wins!!
Mark Takano has made history by winning his election in California’s new 41st Congressional District. The Democrat beat Republican challenger John Tavaglione and will become the first openly gay person of color ever to serve in Congress. He will also be the first out person to represent the Golden State on the federal level.
Tuesday’s election saw women take a record number of seats in the U.S. Senate. One-fifth of the legislative body no longer belongs to the good old boys.
Five new women were elected to the Senate, raising the number of female lawmakers in the chamber from 17 to 20. Democrat Elizabeth Warren will become the first female senator in Massachusetts history after she defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown. Republican Deb Fischer emerged victorious over Democrat Bob Kerrey and will be the first full-term female senator from Nebraska.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota’s attorney general, won a Senate seat in her state, while Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate. Tammy Baldwin will become the first openly gay U.S. senator after shebeat former Gov. Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin.
Democrat Claire McCaskill bested Todd “legitimate rape” Akin to maintain her Missouri Senate seat.
The Sunlight Foundation found that Planned Parenthood’s advocacy arm and super-PAC spent about $5 million and $7 million, respectively, to oppose Republicans and support Democrats in the general election.
In the end, the two groups saw returns on investment of about 98 and 99 percent, according to Sunlight.
The figures come as election-watchers pick apart the most expensive cycle in history. Republicans’ loss in the presidential race and failure to claim the Senate came as a surprise to outside donors, many of whom spent millions to ensure GOP victories.
Planned Parenthood’s political wing played an outsized role in the general election, compared to cycles past. The flood of political activity came as Republicans vowed to end Planned Parenthood’s federal funding as a healthcare provider for low-income women. Conservatives argue that while the law technically bans public funds from supporting abortions, taxpayer money need not flow to a group that performs the procedures.
The election covered a wide range of women’s health issues in addition to public funds for Planned Parenthood, giving the group ample chance to advocate in favor of abortion rights and access to free birth control.
Three times over, voters made history on Election Day, endorsing moves to allow gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington state.
At the same time, Minnesota voters rejected a ballot measure that would have enshrined an anti-gay marriage law in their constitution, and neighboring Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin as the country’s first openly gay U.S. senator.
Gay rights supporters are marking 2012 as a turning point in their quest for marriage equality. Opponents, meanwhile, deny a cultural shift in American attitudes is afoot, and alternatively decry changing definitions of marriage and family.
“This is a real sea change moment,” said Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose 2003 consecration as the church’s first openly gay bishop set off a firestorm. “This is a real national moment. It shows that America is ready for the mainstreaming of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”
This is really a time for celebration. It showed that campaigns run on race baiting, police state tactics against ethnic minorities, misogyny and homophobia do not sit well with the majority of the American people. It also shows that the American people once again rejected the policies of the Republicans. No amount of repackaging is going to put their coalition in a majority position again. Voter repression tactics didn’t work. People showed up early and stood in line. Huge amounts of SUPER PAC money didn’t work either. The people spoke. Let’s continue to drive these haters into obscurity.
Party On Sky Dancers!!!
What was the best of the November 2012 Election for you?
So, it’s Oktoberfest month.
If you are using active dry yeast, mix it into the warm milk along with the malt powder (or brown sugar) and give it 5 to 10 minutes to activate before incorporating it into the dry ingredients.
Makes 6 large pretzels
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until it forms a ball. I start with 2 cups of the flour and mix it together until it forms something like a thick batter, then add more flour a handful at a time until it’ll form a nice ball that I can knead by hand.
Either use an electric mixer to mix the dough for 5 minutes or remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough begins to get smooth and satiny.
If you are going to ferment the dough (more information on whether this set is necessary below), return the ball of dough to a clean, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately an hour.
If you fermented it, degas the dough gently before moving on to the next step.
Before shaping, start preheating the oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each one into a short log, cover with a towel, and let the dough relax for 5 to 10 minutes. After it has relaxed you should be able to roll it out and stretch again fairly easily.
To boil them: If you want to boil them, bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk each of the pretzels into the boiling water for 5 seconds, then place them onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt (I use the kosher stuff that is easy to find at the grocery store) or other toppings.
I also like all this time of year because around here it’s Voodoo Fest and the Blues Fest and all kinds of good music is around!
Here’s a list of the top 10 fall brews. My own personal favorite these days is Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale. This one is straight from Germany.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen
Märzen / Oktoberfest
5.8 per cent ABV
The Ayinger Brewery, founded in 1878 and located in the Bavarian village of Aying, is no stranger to brewing medals. It regularly brings home gold medals from the World Beer Championships and its Oktober Fest-Märzen is one of the most medaled and highly respected Märzens in the world. It pours with a golden color tinted with amber and a nose of floral hops balanced with slightly sweet malt. Flavors of caramel and nutty malt form the backbone and it’s balanced with just enough hops to prevent it from coming off as too sweet. Its medium body and moderate alcohol (5.6 per cent ABV) is not overpowering, making this an easy drinking beer that will pair nicely with roasted chicken, fish, sausage or sauerkraut.
I think they’re wonderful!
I also like watching goofy old scary movies!
My favorite of the old but good horror movies is a 1932 classic called “The Old Dark House.”
What’s your favorite scary movie and fall treat?
This is a long weekend for many of you, and I hope that you all are enjoying it! Take care because it is during these weekends that bring about travel and water related fatalities.
Earlier this week, Boston Boomer mentioned something in a comment about the origin of Memorial Day. So I thought this link from the New York Times was interesting… Many Claim to Be Memorial Day Birthplace
James Rajotte for The New York Times
Like the one over in Mississippi, this Columbus was founded in the 1820s and sits just a few minutes from countryside in almost any way you drive.
They say that in the other Columbus, too.
It does not take much for the historically curious in either town — like Richard Gardiner, a professor of teacher education at Columbus State University here — to explain why theirs is the true originator of a revered American holiday and why the other is well-meaning but simply misguided.
“I’m going to blame Memphis to some degree,” Professor Gardiner said, about which more later.
Oh boy, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned squabble about something that dates back to the Civil War.
The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers has innumerable founders, going back perhaps beyond the horizon of recorded history, perhaps as far as war itself. But there is the ancient practice and there is Memorial Day, the specific holiday, arising from an order for the annual decoration of graves that was delivered in 1868 by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group made up of Union veterans of the Civil War.
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly two dozen places claim to be the primary source of the holiday, an assertion found on plaques, on Web sites and in the dogged avowals of local historians across the country.
Yet each town seems to have different criteria: whether its ceremony was in fact the earliest to honor Civil War dead, or the first one that General Logan heard about, or the first one that conceived of a national, recurring day.
The article mentions several of the towns that claim being the first, but it focuses on two specific towns.
the claims of the two Columbuses, eyeing each other across Alabama, are among the more nuanced and possibly the most intertwined.
Columbus, Miss., was a hospital town, and in many cases a burial site, for both Union and Confederate casualties of Shiloh, brought in by the trainload. And it was in that Columbus where, at the initiation of four women who met in a 12-gabled house on North Fourth Street, a solemn procession was made to Friendship Cemetery on April 25, 1866.
As the story goes, one of the women spontaneously suggested that they decorate the graves of the Union as well as the Confederate dead, as each grave contained someone’s father, brother or son. A lawyer in Ithaca, N.Y., named Francis Miles Finch read about this reconciliatory gesture and wrote a poem about the ceremony in Columbus, “The Blue and the Gray,” which The Atlantic Monthly published in 1867.
“My view is it’s really the poem that inspired the nation,” said Rufus Ward, a retired district attorney, sitting in his basement and sipping a mint julep (his grandmother’s recipe, he said, the one she shared with Eudora Welty).
The Georgians dispute little of this. But they argue that the procession in the other Columbus was actually inspired by the events in their Columbus.
And what about Georgia’s Columbus?
…Professor Gardiner points to a local woman named Mary Ann Williams, who in the spring of 1866 wrote an open letter suggesting “a day be set apart annually” and become a “custom of the country” to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.
That day, described as a national day, was chosen to be April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender in North Carolina to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The letter, or a summary of it, ran in newspapers all over the South, and as far west as St. Louis and as far north as New Hampshire, leading to widespread ceremonies on that day.
It also ran in the The Memphis Daily Avalanche on March 27, 1866. But the paper had the wrong date — April 25.
“This misprint right here is the difference between what you’ll hear in Columbus, Mississippi, and here,” Professor Gardiner said, concluding that the Memphis misprint traveled to the other Columbus. The Mississippi commemoration did take place a day earlier, he admitted, but they go too far in claiming they came up with it independently. “I just can’t — I don’t buy it.”
But this day set by Mary Ann Williams was only for the Confederate dead. And still to this day the south celebrates Confederate Day, our Banjoville courthouse is closed on that day.
However, according to Professor of History David W. Blight, Yale University…the event that brought about Memorial Day is…
…a mostly forgotten — or possibly suppressed — event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track.
He has called that the first Memorial Day, as it predated most of the other contenders, though he said he has no evidence that it led to General Logan’s call for a national holiday.
“I’m much more interested in the meaning that’s being conveyed in that incredible ritual than who’s first,” he said.
I agree with Blight’s assessment too. The meaning of the day is what is most important.
So with that in mind, please take a moment today and remember all the soldiers who have died in the service of their country.
More news links after the jump.
To read the biographies of this year’s recipients of the Women of Courage awards is nothing short of inspiring. These are women who have put their lives and futures on the line to improve the quality of life for others, most specifically women and girls in parts of the world where to be female is extraordinarily difficult, even life-threatening. These are women who would make our Bread and Roses mavens proud, infuse enough energy to conjure those slumbering spirits for another boisterous rally, another yelp for dignity and freedom.
Maryam Durani, a member of the Provencial Council, Kandahar, Afghanistan was one of ten women cited and honored last Thursday in a ceremony, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here’s a wee bit of her story:
Afghanistan as we all know is not an oasis of women’s liberation. But Ms. Durani has pitched herself against the traditional Afghani sensibility, standing as a role model and leader in a country of ancient tribal traditions and strict paternalistic mindsets. She is the director of the nonprofit Women’s Center for Culture and owns and operates a radio station, which focuses on informing women of their rights. And the inherent risks of demanding those rights.
She should know. A suicide bomber nearly ended her life, leaving her with serious injuries. The death threats haven’t stopped. Yet, she persists as do the women she serves because in a world where women, by virtue of their gender are considered the enemy, a threat by merely existing as autonomous human beings, there is only one response: fight back.
Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introducting Ms. Durani during the Awards Ceremony last week:
Many of the women honored this year and in the past have put themselves on the frontline, encountering serious security threats to themselves and their families. They are not the first and sadly, they won’t be the last. The complete list of awardees can be found here.
In January 2011, many people were horrified when the body of Susana Chavez was discovered in a shallow grave. Chavez, a young poet activist, gave voice to the disappeared women in Juarez, Mexico, nearly 800 women at the time, only to be ‘disappeared’ herself. She was later found tortured, strangled, her body mutilated.
What was her offense?
She would not stop questioning, haranguing, annoying public officials for their inadequate investigations into the deaths of so many women. She was making trouble because she gave voice to those who had no voice, often no identity because their bodies had been disfigured, disposed of, forgotten.
Chavez refused to forget. She refused to be silent. Giving voice to the abuse of others seems to be a constant thread in all these stories.
In addition to the official US awards, PEN International remembered the murdered women writers of Mexico, eleven murders in 2011, five of whom were women. Since 2006, forty-five writers/journalists/bloggers have been murdered or disappeared because of their investigative/ activist work.
Susana Chavez is on the PEN International list. So is Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, the mother of two and a veteran crime/political reporter. She was abducted by gunmen in front of her home, only to be later found decapitated. The message is clear: remain silent or this could be you.
Threats, torture, rape, imprisonment and murder is too often the fate of women who will not be silent, who refuse to get with programs that would restrain and silence them and their sisters. And yet, like Maryam Durani and others, they persist. They refuse to back down.
We have our own homegrown fight in the United States, those who would roll back a woman’s right to direct her reproductive life, choose her own destiny. Here the punishment is humiliation, censor, scorn, name-calling, legislative measures to equate a woman’s fully realized life with that of a zygote, even the willingness to probe a woman’s decision-making process [because authoritarians find women incapable of ‘right-minded’ action, otherwise known as ‘their way or the highway’].
In all these efforts, the purpose is to demean, limit, control, even eliminate women because the Daughters of Eve are traditionally viewed as a danger, a threat to the status quo. There’s a reason Lilith is rarely mentioned. She was wa-a-ay too uppity.
But here’s the thing: even for those of us not facing mortal danger, we can have an impact by the way we live our lives, support other women, raise our daughters and sons and in the way we give voice to those who have pushed back against female abuse in all its forms, here and around the world, past and present.
Because to quote Hillary Clinton’s famous line: Women’s Rights are indeed Human Rights. Our quest should be to fulfill Susana Chavez’s words: Ni Una Mas. Ni Una Mas.
Not One More.